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23rd August 2004


Battlesbridge Classic Show

At an event sponsored by the Greeves and Pre-65 clubs, Geoff Linge found a fascinating array of all sorts of classics, including one very unusual American and the kind of Jelly Mould you don't see every day...

It may have been Independence Day in the United States but in deepest Essex it was a damp humid Sunday morning. Yet despite the weather the Battlesbridge Motorcycle Show carried on regardless and was supported by a large collection of classic bikes and their riders.

Unfortunately many owners had parked their bikes and wandered off to look around, and who can blame them? But this meant I was unable to gather much information regarding the bikes and my ignorance was especially frustrating when I came across this beautiful ACE inline four. All I know about it was that it was pre-1929 when the name was consigned to the history books.

Ase. Literally...

(From the history books: the Ace is an American marquee which dates back to 1919 or so. William Henderson, who also provided engines for the Excelsior-Henderson machines of the era, founded the ACE Motor Corporation in Philadelphia where he continued to build inline four-cylinder powered motorcycles. The bikes were first 1168cc, then 1229cc and 1266cc. When Henderson was killed while testing a bike in 1922, the machines' development passed to Arthur Lemon who continued the theme of inlet-over-exhaust valves and light alloy pistons to push out between 22 and 25bhp.

Unable to maintain commercial production for very long, ACE was sold to Indian in 1927 and from 1929 the 1266cc inline four-cylinder engine was used to power the Indian 4. And at one time, Indian possessed the biggest motorcycle factory in the world... but that's another story. TP)

You wait ages for one red Domninator...

Whilst admiring a 1958 Norton 99 Dominator I puzzled over it's red paintwork. I'd never seen a red Norton before! Les Rogers, the owner of the bike, kindly informed me that Norton only built 740 Red 99s and twenty of those were exported.

Then, only two rows behind, I found another Red 99...

As I walked the rows of bikes, names from the past, the elite of British motorcycle manufacturers were there: Ariel, Brough, Douglas, DOT, James, Sunbeam, BSA, Triumph, Norton, Vincent and Velocette and a sprinkling of foreign bikes including, Honda, BMW, Yamaha and Moto Guzzi.

One bike that caught my eye was a 1938 Norton Model 50, but not because of its gleaming chrome. It didn't have any! It just had the appearance of being well used, which was not surprising. The 50's owner informed me that apart from the obvious replacements such as tyres, nothing had been changed on the bike since it left the factory 66 years ago. It has been in daily use since then and still is!

And here's me thinking it had just been left out in the sun too long...

The sheer numbers of bikes on show prevented in-depth look at them all, but one of the other bikes which caught my eye was this 1965 Standard Royal Enfield Continental. There were only 1029 'Jelly Mould' Continentals built and this one was number 968. These bikes were only built from 1963 until July 1965. Most models had chrome mudguards and rev counters fitted. This standard model with painted mudguards was made in small numbers during 1964 and 1965, and only 1965 models had fork gaiters. This was the least popular machine as most customers bought either the sportier GT version or the popular Crusader Sports. So there won't be many others quite like this one around - does anyone know of another one?

The event was sponsored by the Greeves Riders Association and the Pre-65 MX club, so I left the rows of parked classics for a short time and wandered over to the Greeves marquee. On show in and around the marquee appeared to be every type of Greeves ever produced, and in all stages of restoration. The Greeves is very much a local bike to this venue as they were built in Thundersley, just a couple of miles down the A130. And outside the marquee, the Pre-65 MX club were giving demonstrations.

Unfortunately after a stroll around the autojumble and other stalls it was time to go, as other commitments prevented me spending more time at this venue. I will be back again next year!


Note standard issue British Summer Sky...

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